Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo


Managing waste has become a hydra-headed problem for the country. Many environmentalists have been calling for something drastic to be done to change and make things better.

The country is reeling from uncontrolled waste, rendering recycling and waste administration a daunting task. The need to find a way out of the looming catastrophe cannot and should not wait.

Ghana no longer has the luxury of time to play around with the problem – the huge tonnes of plastic we are producing and using daily.

Statistics

In 2012, the World Bank estimated that poor sanitation was costing Ghana’s economy around 420 million Cedis, each year, the equivalent to 1.6% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The study also said due largely to poor sanitation and hygiene about 19,000 Ghanaians died prematurely, annually.

It is estimated that by 2050, plastic waste in the oceans will be more than the fishes in it, a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum has predicted.

The report, published in 2017, said part of the reason for the forecast was that plastic use had increased 20-fold in the last 50 years, and the figure was going continue to rise. Large volumes of plastics not reused or recycled, end up chocking the open drains and fueling flooding anytime it rains.

Plastic waste
Since the plastic revolution hit Ghana some decades ago, almost everything — edible and non-edible — has been packaged in plastic. About 70,000 plastic bottles, often referred to as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) are produced every month.

Nonetheless, not much is being been done to ensure effective management of the waste generated, except for the numerous stakeholder engagements on how to deal with the menace.

The debate has moved in circles – calls for effective recycling, imposition of fine on sanitation defaulters and total ban on the use of plastics as done by countries like Rwanda, dominating the discourse.

Wrong perception about solid waste

The control of waste generation, collection, transfer and transport, storage processing and disposal of solid waste must be done in a manner that ties in with the universally accepted principles of public health, economics, engineering, conservation, aesthetics and other considerations which are also reactive to public attitudes.

With the right mindset for solid waste, incomes can be generated from recovery of useful items while concurrently protecting the environment.

For example, in the Philippines, plastic waste is turned into fuel, Sweden generates energy from its waste to power a quarter of a million homes while Singapore has created an island from its solid waste attracting tourists to the country.

Our streets, however, continue to be littered with this useful resource because we regard it as waste and of no use whatsoever.

Although we cannot transplant the technologies used abroad to our country, we can develop suitable technologies that can bring something out of our waste.

Non-regulation of Waste Management Companies
Generally, privatization of waste collection has been deemed to contribute significantly to improving environmental sanitation in our cities.

There is however, no one playing the watchdog role with regards to the operation of these private waste management companies resulting in poor service delivery.

In areas where these companies are paid by the central government to collect and transport waste to the final disposal site, the skips and bins containers usually overflow with heaps of waste before they are collected for disposal.

It is as if nobody cares whether the waste is picked on time or not. Even in places where there is door-to-door services – where people pay money on monthly basis for waste collection, some residents have been complaining of poor services.

Who is regulating the activities of these waste management companies and do their service levels affect the renewal or otherwise of their contract?

The blame game among sector institutions
Whenever there is a public outcry over the filth in our cities, waste management companies are quick to point accusing fingers at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) for non-payment of monies owed them.
The excuse of the MMDAs has always been the delay in the release of the District Assemblies Common Fund for payment of sanitation services.

According to the National Environmental Sanitation Strategy and Action Plan (NESSAP), MMDAs are to operate a dedicated fund for environmental sanitation which will be sourced from Internally Generated Funds (IGF), transfers from central government and donor support.

Evidently, funding of sanitation services is a shared responsibility – the MMDAs, the central government and donors and with the huge demands on the IGF, transfers from central government and donor support constitute the greater proportion of this dedicated fund.

While the central government expects the MMDAs to use their IGF to support sanitation services, the MMDAs have become overly dependent on releases from the central government, something that has not been timely.

It is unthinkable that in this modern day and age, the government and local authorities pay for collection of solid waste generated by residents. In some cases, this constitutes about 40% of the annual expenditure of MMDAs, putting a tremendous strain on the meagre revenues for developmental projects.

Public attitude towards waste
The reckless littering by the people is unhelpful to efforts at improving environmental sanitation. The blatant disregard for the environment – making our communities untidy with rubbish must stop.

It is not uncommon for one to see passengers throwing waste onto the streets from a moving vehicle or people discarding waste shamelessly at lorry stations and other public places.

Their excuse is that, there are no receptacles around to dump the waste. Quite astoundingly, even in areas where there are bins people still dump their waste anywhere. It is this same people who loudly complain about the filthy environment.

There are those, who strangely justify the indiscriminate waste dumping and you cannot believe their argument – that the waste management companies would have no job doing if they do not litter.

Waste can provide a source of income to the people if avenues are created for some components of the waste stream to be returned for money. Sachet water bags, empty bottles and other forms of plastics could easily be returned for cash and this could be a source of employment for people.

Though this is being done in some parts, that needs to be scaled up. Deliberate steps should be taken to assist the people to see solid waste as a source of income not something destined for the landfill.

National Sanitation Authority
The government of Ghana recently announced the creation of a National Sanitation Authority (NSA) and a dedicated sanitation fund. The objective is to improve the monitoring of the various sanitation projects across the country.

“In order to effectively coordinate efforts to improve sanitation in Ghana, the government has initiated the process of establishing a National Sanitation Authority and a National Sanitation Fund”, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice-President, made the announcement during a recent trip to the Volta region.

This is an important decision in a country where the government has set itself the goal of improving access to sanitation services for its population. According to Dr. Bawumia, the Authority would support the government’s sanitation efforts, but more importantly mobilize resources and human capacity to improve the sector in Ghana.

The NSA should also deal with current issues in the sanitation sector including the supply of 20,000 waste bins throughout the country.

It would be working with Zoomlion Company, which is responsible for waste management in several cities in the West African and the security agencies to protect the country’s water resources.

“The quality of life we want for our communities is closely linked to the way we manage water and sanitation. Living in a good society and in a well-managed environment for water, sanitation and hygiene is something we should all wish for ourselves and our children,” said the Vice-President.

The Sanitation Fund, for its part, will mobilise funding for the implementation of the various sanitation projects. The government relies on the private sector to improve sanitation, including waste water treatment.

The Ghanaian Company Jospong Group of Companies (JGC) and the Hungarian company Pureco are building wastewater treatment plants that will handle part of the wastewater in Tamale, Kumasi, and Takoradi.

At another stakeholders’ forum, Dr. Richard Amponsah, Managing Director of Africa Sanitation Consult, called for the Government to establish a National Sanitation Authority (NSA) to effectively manage the sanitation challenges confronting the nation.

The Authority will coordinate a multi-sectorial and waste management activities while ensuring that the required legal framework for the achievement of a cleaner and healthier environment is put in place.

That is the way to achieve the vision of making Accra the cleanest city in Africa as government initiates moves to win the battle against poor sanitation.

Highlighting challenges confronting waste management in Ghana, he identified the existing complex governance structure between the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the Ministry of Sanitation as counter-productive effective management of waste.

Dr. Amponsah urged Government to put environmental health and sanitation at the centre of all development policies and strategies – make improved sanitation a key performance indicator for Ministers, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and other government appointees.

He also called for the formulation of a national strategy for waste management adding that such a strategy must be more specific to provide direction.

He underlined the need for a more sustainable financing arrangement for solid waste and called for adequate support for the private sector to enable them function effectively to complement the effort of government.

Manufacturers and importers of plastic products

Manufacturers and importers of plastic products are saying that although the government charges them 10 percent Environmental Excise Tax (EET) to manage the plastic waste that has not happened.
According to the Chairman of the Plastic Waste Management Programme, Mr Ebo Botwe: “As per the law that established the 10 percent EET, proceeds are supposed to be lodged in a special fund.”

Environmental Fund

He alleges that the “National Environmental Fund Authority for Plastic Waste Management is intended to support relevant plastic waste management initiatives, especially plastic waste recycling in the country, but, sadly, to this day the fund authority has not been set up and proceeds from the 10 per cent EET, which runs into several hundreds of thousands in Cedis, have been diverted into the Consolidated Fund”.

To fight the plastic waste menace, the Environmental Fund must be set up without further delay and the authority to manage it established to ensure that the taxes collected are applied for the intended purpose.

Setting up of the fund will encourage more manufacturers and producers of beverages, food and other items who use plastic packaging, especially PET bottles, to pay the EET. It will also create employment, as various activities will be lined up to ensure that the environment is rid of plastic waste.

As things stand now, l share the view that putting the EET in the Consolidated Fund does not augur well for us as a country, since that fund is a common pot from which funds are taken for all sorts of purposes.

Institutional support
Two organisations championing effective and efficient environmental sanitation issues in the country have called on the government to as a matter of urgency accelerate the establishment of the NSA and Fund to achieve the SDGs.

The two – Environmental Service Providers Association of Ghana (ESPA) and the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), in a joint statement said the NSA would be the game changer, the panacea for addressing the numerous environmental sanitation challenges.

At a recent media engagement, the Vice-President of CONIWAS, Mr. Attah Arhin, said despite the establishment of the ministry of sanitation and water resources, investment in environmental sanitation had been abysmally low.

Added to that was inadequate budgetary allocation – the decline from GH¢255 million in 2017 to GH¢246 million in 2019.

Mr. Arhin said only 60 per cent of the over five million tonnes of waste per annum in the country was collected and disposed of safely, with the remaining 40 per cent ending up in unauthorised places, including drains.

Sanitation challenges

He added that the inadequate financing for solid waste management, coupled with the high cost of operations and unrealistic tariffs, affected the quality of effective service delivery by providers, especially to the poor.

Ghana, he said, charged less than US$10 for the management of a tonne of waste, which was relatively lower than the US$30 recommended by the World Bank.

“Delays in the payment of service providers by the government, high taxes on imported equipment and increasing cost of fuel is driving many service providers out of business.”

The government, he said, could overcome the challenges only when it demonstrated political will and commitment to prioritise and increase investment in the sector with support from its development partners.

To promote proper environmental delivery services, the two organisations have resolved to dialogue with the government on fair pricing that protects the consumers and private service providers as well as the need to support local and indigenous private sector companies to develop the needed infrastructure and ensure pro-poor services for all.
Mr Arhin said the government must increase financing for environmental sanitation through the budget and other innovative financing instruments, including tax waivers and guarantees for private commercial financing.

It should “provide adequate infrastructure for waste treatment, recycling and final disposal through partnerships with the private sector”.

He asked that strong support was also given to existing waste treatment facilities with financial incentives, including management fees, signing off-taker agreements and subsidies.

Way forward
It is recommended that government plays lead role in fast tracking a National Plastics Management Policy to help tackle head-on the overwhelming plastic waste nuisance.

There is the need to speed up the processes that will lead to the policy becoming operational. This way, Ghana can effectively deal with the plastic menace and make the environment safe for everyone.

There is also the urgent need for the government to come up with a legislative instrument to regulate the use and management of plastics as being done in three African countries.

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